Ex-housing exec bought sex toy, booze with stolen cash
Detroit – The former head of the St. Clair Housing Commission was sentenced Wednesday to more than three years in federal prison for stealing more than $330,000 in low-income housing funds and spending the cash on a sex toy, booze and homes for her family.
Former Executive Director Lorena Loren was sentenced to 37 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith, capping a scandal that involved almost every branch of her immediate family tree and shortchanged poor people, according to federal prosecutors.
The sentence came seven months after Loren pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal program fraud. Loren, 56, also has agreed to pay $336,241 restitution to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In a court filing, prosecutors chronicled a decade of fraud and illustrated how Loren orchestrated the conspiracy with the help of relatives, including her father and son.
“Loren’s crime is particularly serious because it adversely impacted poor, disabled and elderly citizens and deprived them of the assistance they required,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Loren’s fraudulent acts are especially egregious considering her position as executive director at the commission and the reprehensible collusion with which she engaged nearly every member of her immediate family to carry out this crime.”
The conspiracy dates to 2008, when Loren started tapping the commission’s Section 8 housing assistance funds, which are designated to help the poor, elderly and the disabled. Instead, Loren enriched herself and her immediate family.
She used the money to pay for her son’s college apartment in Saginaw and homes in Florida and Georgia. In all, Loren stole $83,761 to pay for her son’s housing.
Loren also used the commission’s credit cards to “brazenly” purchase personal items.
Those items included a vibrator, romance novels, booze, infant clothing, a queen-size, French-style sleigh bed and more. Loren also dipped into the commission’s petty cash fund.
“Loren’s greed and fraudulent behavior was carried out at the expense of those she was entrusted to help – the poor, elderly and disabled,” Ison wrote.
Loren’s lawyer was bothered that the government included the vibrator among the purchases it attributed to her.
“I thought that was an example of them sticking it to her personally,” defense lawyer Leon Weiss told The Detroit News. “I don’t think that was necessary.”
Loren also gave brother Gary Stock Jr. $4,900 in federal funds.
Loren was charged in August, one year after she retired abruptly, St. Clair Mayor Bill Cedar Jr. said. She moved to Nicholls, Georgia, and bought a $325,000 custom-built house in October 2016, according to public records.
The home is far from low-income housing. The five-bedroom, 2,858-square-foot home features a salt-water pool, 24-foot ceilings, walk-in closets, a game room and detached man cave.
Back in St. Clair, Loren fraudulently obtained housing-assistance payments for properties in which she had a proprietary interest with family members or for the benefit of family members, according to court records.
She lied while claiming her son-in-law was the landlord of a rental property for low-income residents, prosecutors alleged. The property turned out to be Lorena Loren’s home in Port Austin, Michigan, according to court records.
Loren has paid almost $100,000 restitution and the government is seizing her pension, Weiss said.
“She did have a breakdown in her moral compass. She was going through some problems with depression, some financial problems and she crossed the line,” Weiss said. “Honestly, it was totally out of character for the way she lived her life up to that point.”